ALFIE SHEPHERD THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS (WHCD023)

 

1. Spring Fever

2. Floating On A Dream

3. The Wild Wood

4. Dulce Domum

5. The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

6. The Open Road

7. Lost In His Life

8. Bargin'

9. The Call Of The South

10. "Like Summer Tempests Came His Tears"

11. The Return Of Ulysses

Bonus tracks

12. I'm Only The Postman

13. Tomorrow's Dreams Today

14. The Swallow's Song

15. Sandy's Song

16. Won't Be Loving Again

17. I'm Moving On

18. Friends

19. Sad Statue

20. Elizabeth Knows

21. The Resurrection Men

 

In late 1969, Angel Pavement linchpin Alfie Shepherd took time out from the group's hectic schedule to demo a concept album that he'd written around his favourite childhood story, Kenneth Grahame's timeless The Wind In The Willows. Sadly Angel Pavement broke up before they'd had the chance to record the work, which was duly left to gather dust. Some forty years later, Alfie's homemade recording of the proposed album finally gets a long-overdue release. Bolstered by a clutch of similarly unissued home demos from the same timeframe, The Wind In The Willows is now revealed as one of the great lost projects of the late 1960s, a thrilling psychedelic pop song-suite that's bursting with melodic invention, ambitious vocal arrangements and the boundless spirit of adventure that characterised the era.

"Without question, a curious fascination with all things Victorian and Edwardian informed the look and sound of Britain in the psychedelic era. Fashion and design, certainly, drew inspiration from those bygone days. The literature of the time also had a huge influence, particularly those purveyors of whimsy and nonsense, Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. Kenneth Grahame's The Wind In The Willows was very much in the air as well. Indeed, Pink Floyd titled their debut album after its seventh chapter. Grahame's book would inspire Alfie Shepherd of the York-based group Angel Pavement to attempt a musical adaptation, with lyrical input from Terry Morris. In late 1969, Shepherd recorded a demo of the projected album on a Philips reel-to-reel in his bedroom, do-it-yourself-style. Angel Pavement broke up the following year, and though there was some interest in recording or even staging Shepherd's ambitious creation, nothing ever came of it. Wooden Hill's Psychedelic Schlemiels (2007) offered a tantalising first glimpse of it, the haunting 'Floating On A Dream'. With the release of this CD, one can now hear the entire eleven-song suite, along with ten Shepherd song demos from '70-'71. For the recordings, Shepherd's friend Baz Starkey acted as engineer and provider of sound effects; everything else is Shepherd. Overdubs were kept to a minimum, to help preserve sound quality. As Shepherd says in his song commentary, "I played the guitar sat down on my bed, with my Mum's Ewbank carpet sweeper between my legs with a microphone taped to it." Understandably, there's nothing terribly fancy going on in the arrangements, and, instrumentally speaking, nothing more exotic than a toy harmonium Shepherd bought for £10. That said, the sound is remarkably rich and full of clever guitar bits; the lack of a full band is really only felt on the big finale, 'The Return Of Ulysses'. Shepherd's lighter than air tenor is perfect for this music, be it the jaunty Brit-folk opener, 'Spring Fever', or the beautiful harmonies of 'The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn' (it comes as no surprise to learn that Shepherd's dad was a chorister). The additional song demos are of a similar standard, from the strangely beautiful 'Swallow Song' to the simply beautiful 'Tomorrow's Dream Today'." (Ugly Things)

 

© Tenth Planet/Wooden Hill 2008-2014